With the holidays quickly approaching, I know a lot of people are mentally preparing for “cheat days,” or days they break away from the habits they’ve developed for living clean. And I don’t blame them; living clean is hard enough as it is, so during the holidays it can seem impossible. With all the shared meals and deserts that either you are expected to make for people who don’t live clean, or people who don’t live clean are making for you, it can be easy to simply let it go and eat poorly for a few days.
However, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way. While there are always going to be factors you can’t control, there are always factors you can. And while the prospect of eating all of that “forbidden” food is tempting, all you have to do is think about how sick you’ll feel afterwards to find the motivation to start searching for alternatives. (And if I’m being honest, while eating something like oreo cake pops sounds amazing, after eating clean for a while it just takes one bite for me to taste all the preservatives and chemicals I’ve cut out of my diet).
10 Tips for Clean Eating During the Holidays
1.Always offer to bring a dish or desert when possible.
This is the best course of action in my opinion. When you make the food, you know exactly what’s going into it, meaning you are totally in control. And bringing this dish or desert (or both) to your holiday party not only guarantees you will have something delicious and clean to eat, but it can be an opportunity to share the clean life with other people (and any conversions mean fewer unhealthy temptations next year).
2. Share your best clean recipes with the host/hostess.
This should be done delicately. Don’t present it as “you should make this because it fits my lifestyle.” Instead say “I found the most delicious recipe for <insert awesome food here>! It’s so easy and I think <important people at gathering> would just love it!” This way you’re helping them out instead of demanding special food. And if they ask you to make it, take it as an opportunity to put tip number 1 into action.
3. Just stick to water.
This one speaks for itself. Sugary (and chemically sweetened) drinks are everywhere during the holidays, and it’s best to just steer clear of it all.
4. Opt for homemade deserts over purchased deserts.
More often than not, something homemade will be cleaner than something bought from the store. The biggest reason for this is the lack of preservatives that usually go into pre-made deserts so they can sit on a shelf for weeks on end. The exception to this is anything made from a box. While technically “homemade,” these are going to be just as bad as something straight from the store. A sneaky way to find out which kind of homemade something is: ask if it’s a family recipe. Generally if it’s not, people will be quick to offer what it actually is, meaning you never insult anyone by assuming they made brownies from a box.
5. Fill up on the turkey rather than the stuffing.
While that turkey may not be free-range and hormone-free, it sure is better than the white-bread stuffing that’s been soaked in butter. This tip can apply to other foods as well. Choose mashed potatoes made from real potatoes over cranberry sauce from a can (you all know the kind I’m talking about: the kind that looks like dark red jello in the shape of a can). Those potatoes may have milk/butter in them, but they’re missing the preservatives and added sugar in the cranberry sauce.
6. Grab hearty servings from the fresh veggie tray.
As I’m sure you know, veggies are full of fiber and vitamins, and are pretty much a staple of any healthy diet. Fresh veggies are pretty much as clean as you can get at a holiday party (without going organic). Plus, since they aren’t cooked, you don’t have to worry about whether they were cooked in butter or coconut oil. Even better, veggie trays are pretty much a staple at office parties (how that happened I’ll never know), so you can count on there being a healthy option available. The fiber is also pretty filling, so it’s easier to avoid the double fudge box brownies probably sitting next to them. I have to remind you though, just because the veggies are healthy does not mean you can drown them in the ranch dressing. Ranch is actually pretty terrible for your health as far as dressings go (full of all the ‘bad’ fats), so eat the veggies without the dressing or significantly limit the dressing per veggie.
7. Fill a plate, then walk away from the food.
This is an old diet trick, but it’s applicable here. Half the battle of eating clean during the holidays is resisting the temptation to eat all the bad-for-you goodies. An effective way to avoid this is to fill your plate with the best foods you can, and walk away from the rest. When you can’t see the brownies, it’s easier to tell yourself you don’t need them. Out of sight, out of mind.
8. Keep nibbles out of reach.
That bowl of M&Ms over there? You’re much less likely to indulge if you can’t easily reach the bowl. This is another diet trick that can really help you avoid the bad-for-you goodies the holidays tend to surround us with. For once, laziness is on our side and we choose not to get up to grab the M&Ms because that’s just too much effort. On the flip side of this, you could make sure you’re standing next to that veggie tray so your mindless munching becomes harmless. Another tip for munchers is to simply hold a drink (i.e. water). You can continually take sips of your drink to simulate the action of continually grabbing munchies, again turning mindless munching harmless.
9. Choose the lesser of two evils.
This ties in to tip number 5. However, there won’t always be a mostly healthy choice vs. a mostly unhealthy choice. Sometimes all you can do is choose the least terrible of two unhealthy foods. The best way to do this is to think beforehand about what is most important to you; whether its avoiding dairy or preservatives or added sugar, make a ranking and stick to it. So if avoiding dairy is more important to you than avoiding added sugars, you might choose the cranberry sauce over the real mashed potatoes. Decide what works for you.
10. Allow yourself tiny portions of the most tempting non-clean foods.
Lastly, I know there will always be those foods that you just can’t resist. The best way to deal with this is to allow the indulgence, but control the portion. You will find you will be just as satisfied with half a slice of pie as a whole slice with a dollop of whipped cream. In fact you’ll probably be more satisfied because there is a definite sense of accomplishment from exercising self-control successfully (not to mention you’ll probably avoid making yourself sick).
Bonus Tip: Detox when you’re done.
This tip isn’t included officially in the above list because it’s not a tip for staying clean, it’s a tip for cleaning up the damage that inevitably occurs. This is not to say that you should set out expecting failure, but it never hurts to have a contingency plan. The detox I most recommend is by Catherine Rudolph (found here). I recommend it because although I’ve never gone on any detox diet, I’ve watched this work for my mother. I also do NOT recommend that you do a ‘juice cleanse.’ While fruit and vegetable juices certainly are good for you, the problem arises in ONLY drinking fruit and vegetable juice. Our bodies need a wide variety of nutrients to stay healthy, and you just can’t get all of those nutrients from juices. This article from livescience.com explains everything pretty well, and provides some statements from expert nutritionists who do not support juice cleansing.
What tips can you guys share about how you keep up with clean eating during the holidays? I’d love to know, so leave a comment below!